NOTEBOOK: Johnson moves to safety, Porter moves to corner and more

Jan 2, 2021; Glendale, AZ, USA; Iowa State Cyclones defensive back Anthony Johnson Jr. (26) celebrates against the Oregon Ducks in the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Campbell met with the media on Monday to officially kick off Iowa State’s 2022 spring practice schedule. The Cyclones have already practiced twice during the spring and will do so 13 more times between now and three open practices at local high schools in early-April.

You can watch Matt Campbell’s Zoom call with reporters right here or listen to it in its entirety right here. Here are some of the highlights from Campbell’s time with some brief analysis.

Johnson moves to safety

Iowa State’s defense was given a significant boost for 2022 when veteran defensive back Anthony Johnson announced he’d use his COVID-year and return for a fifth season with the program.

The three-time honorable mention All-Big 12 selection has started 42 games for Iowa State at the cornerback spot but has started the transition to safety this spring. The former three-star recruit projects as a safety at the next level.

“I think you’re trying to do, honestly, in some ways from our end, what’s best for him and his future,” Campbell said. “Yet, you never want to do that without the confidence of where the rest of your football team is. Because, you know, again, we want to make all decisions that are in the best interest of our team first. But when you can make a decision that’s best for your team and also best for the player, it’s such a great win-win.”

Johnson has been one of the Big 12’s best corners each of the last three seasons, recording 183 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, three sacks, 24 pass breakups and four forced fumbles in his career for the Cyclones.

The 6-foot, 200-pound Saint Petersburg, Fla. native immediately projects as one of the program’s starters at one of the three safety spots, alongside promising young returners Craig McDonald and Beau Freyler.

“I think from Anthony’s perspective, he’s been a phenomenal corner,” Campbell said. “I think his physicality, his ability to run and cover, really lends great for him to be able to play the safety position. I think when you look for his future, he’s a guy that has high-end ability to play at the next level at the safety position.”

Porter moves to corner

With Johnson moving back a level in the defense, one name to keep an eye on at cornerback heading towards the fall is converted wide receiver Darien Porter.

The Bettendorf native has been one of the program’s standout special teams players during his first three years of action, but never really cracked the rotation on the offensive side.

He’ll now look to take that nose for the football that’s been on display on special teams, plus his 6-foot-4, 185-pound frame, and use it to compete for the wide-open cornerback jobs.

“Darien has been an elite special teams player,” Campbell said. “A guy that has elite buy-in from everybody in our program from our players to coaches and has really kind of emerged on the scene in that in that position group as well.”

Other names to keep an eye on at cornerback after Johnson’s move will be returners Myles Purchase, Tayvonn Kyle and T.J. Tampa.

Dekkers is the guy — at least for now

It shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear Campbell say if the season started today, Hunter Dekkers would be the Cyclones’ starting quarterback.

The Hawarden native is the only quarterback on Iowa State’s roster with any FBS playing experience and that’s what puts him above guys like Aidan Bouman, Rocco Becht, Nate Glantz and Ashton Cook at this point.

“I think you look at depth charts with what you what you’ve done in game reps,” Campbell said. “Obviously, he’s the guy that’s had the most game reps, but I would say all those roles will be defined through spring practice and fall camp. But, if you were playing a game today, obviously, Hunter’s the guy that’s had the most game experience.”

Dekkers completed 20-of-36 passes attempts for 193 yards and two touchdowns in 2021 while adding four carries for 61 yards and a score on the ground.

Campbell is looking for continual improvement from the redshirt sophomore as he tries to grab a stranglehold on that starting job.

“You want him to get better every day,” Campbell said. “You want to take the really positive that you saw from the video from a year ago, you want to take the negative that he had to learn through and grow through and you want to now go to practice every day and set a standard and reset the standard day in and day out to get better.”

Downing leads talented offensive line room

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Campbell is bullish on the status of his offensive line room and said this is as talented as the program has been at that position going into the spring since he’s been at Iowa State.

Obviously, that group is led by senior Trevor Downing, who returned to his All-Big 12 form in 2021 after missing most of 2020 with an injury. He’s joined by returning starters Jarrod Hufford and Darrell Simmons, plus 2020 starter Jake Remsburg and 2021 Cheez-It bowl starter at left tackle Tyler Miller.

Those five right there seem to be the odds-on favorites to be Iowa State’s starting offensive line if the season were to start today.

“I think you went through a really tough time and times a year ago are battling some really tough injuries,” Campbell said of the group. “Those were tough. The credit to our kids is we were able to fight through those. I would say we didn’t play to the standard that we wanted to play or needed to play at times on the offensive line. Yet, we had to battle through some really tough injuries a year ago. I think the thing that I’m excited about is, No. 1, we’re healthy. No. 2, I would say we’re as talented as we’ve been on the offensive line going into the spring. I think just as it was two years ago, and there were times it was a year ago, when we’re at our best on the offensive line, it allows our football team to play really, really, really good football. I would say it’s a healthy group for the first time and probably as healthy as it’s been since the 2020 season. That part’s exciting for all of us. Because we know when we’re healthy, we get a chance to be really talented.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.